How to write a supplemental essay for college applications

How to write a supplemental essay for college applications

What is a supplemental essay? How can a supplemental essay work for you? This is an essay that allows you to show admission officers qualities that make you unique.

Writing a supplemental essay is part of the application process of joining a college or university.  Such essays give you full control to demonstrate that you deserve an opportunity to join your dream college through your writing skills.

Your grades may not be what you hoped for, and you cannot change them. Writing supplements give you a chance to talk to the admission committee and tell your unique story.

After submitting your grades, recommendation letters, and test scores, you need to read a prompt and write a convincing essay. This is why most students find writing college application essays a daunting task.

This guide will show you how to write an excellent supplemental essay.  Read on to find out what a supplemental essay is and how you can make it work.

What is a supplemental essay?

A supplemental essay is a college application document that needs to be submitted to the college you are applying to. Many universities ask applicants to submit supplemental essays after submitting other application documents.

They provide supplemental essay prompts that you are supposed to read, understand and write an engaging essay. You are required to follow the instructions provided, including the word count limit.

How important are supplemental college essays?

When applying for college admission, you are asked to submit your test scores and grades. These statistics show how you performed in different subjects, but they do not reveal your personality.

Admission officers want to understand your unique qualities and your personality. A supplemental essay is what reveals who you are to the admission board.

This document complements other documents that you have already submitted to the college. You must not repeat information you have provided in other documents instead, write something new about yourself.

Different highly selective colleges and universities will provide applicants with different types of supplemental essay prompts. The following is a guide on how to read, understand and answer these prompts

9 Types of supplemental essays and how to write them

There are different types of questions that universities ask applicants to respond to. The questions may be crafted differently, but the theme remains the same.

It is important to familiarize yourself with the themes and prompts that universities give applicants. Here are some common prompts

1.     Why choose this college?

When responding to this prompt, be specific with your reasons. Your supplemental essay should not list general qualities that other universities or colleges have.

Write about programs and activities that are unique to the specific college you are applying for. Conduct research on the programs and activities offered at the university or college. Explain how these activities and programs are relevant to you.

Discuss how you will use opportunities in the college to advance yourself and meet your goals. Express your passion and show ambition while focusing on the prompt.

When writing supplements for this type of prompt, avoid implying your interest in a particular school because of its ranking or prestige. Provide solid reasons and make sure they are specific to you.

You can talk about a particular program in a school that ranked highly. Write about your interest in that specific program and how it will contribute to your ambitions.

Make sure your writing is clear and easy to understand. When mentioning the name of a college you are applying to for the first time, write it in full. After the first mention, you can start using abbreviations.

Increase your chances of success by avoiding obvious things that other applicants are likely to write. This will make your application stand out from the rest. When you want to write something common but relevant in your story, add an interesting twist.

Research about a specific college you are applying to and find important information for your supplemental essay. Avoid writing about things that are not helpful in your application, like buildings. Give substantial reasons and focus on school programs and how they mesh with your goals.

2.     Why a particular major

You may need to answer a prompt on why you are interested in a particular major. You can answer this type of prompt using a story.

Share how different activities have contributed to your decision to choose that major. Do not list activities instead, tell an interesting story that will reveal your personality and thought process.

Let the readers see your journey in deciding to choose a particular major. Make sure admission officers will understand how it aligns with your goals.

When writing different types of supplements, mention how a particular major is what you need to make your dreams a reality. Avoid reasons like choosing a major to become rich or make more money.

3.     Extracurricular activities

Write about an interesting activity or work experience. You can elaborate on an experience you mentioned in your application.

Discuss what triggered your interest in a particular activity or job. Narrate a story that explains why you do that activity and how it has impacted you. Discuss your role in it.

Show how you have developed over time. Make sure your supplemental essay does not repeat what you have said in another application document.

Provide new information and experiences that show your motivation for doing a particular job or activity. Do not state the activities but use them to share an informative story.

4.     How a community has impacted you

Writing about a community can have many approaches. A community can mean many things, including culture and sports.

You can emphasize personal growth and aspects that have resulted from being in a particular community. Write about how being in that community shaped you at an individual level.

Make sure you do not discriminate when writing supplements about communities. Focus on how that community has impacted you in a specific way. Do not generalize.

Communities can help people learn how to overcome challenges. You can write how this has affected you and share lessons you have learned.

5.     Leadership experience

 A leadership experience prompt requires you to explain how you have demonstrated leadership. Describe how your experience transformed you positively. When writing a supplemental essay on leadership, you need to be aware of the two types of leadership.

Dejure leadership

This type of leadership is official. It is when you are officially appointed to hold a particular office and offer leadership skills.

For example, you may have been the president of your school’s club or student council. Show how you used your leadership skills while holding these official leadership positions.

Write an interesting story about how you brought positive change as a leader. Discuss an impact you made as a leader. It may be big or small.

De facto leadership

This type of leadership is not official. You might have demonstrated leadership in a particular situation even if you were not officially appointed as a leader.

Share details of your story and how you effectively resolved a particular situation. This will help bring out your personality.

In every situation where you demonstrated leadership, explain what happened and the background of that situation. Write about what was at stake and what you did to resolve the situation.

Make sure you are specific in narrating your story. Provide details and highlight your accomplishments.

Make an impact in the minds of your readers. Create a vivid picture in their minds while narrating your story.

6.     Diversity in society

A question on diversity will want to find out how you will fit in and contribute to a diverse society. The question can take different forms, but the main aim is to understand how well you can handle diversity.

Diversity can mean many things like ethnicity, nationality, religious identity, and many other circumstances. When answering this question, it is essential to understand the diversity that is relevant to you.

Your worldview and how you adapt and operate in a particular context will help you answer this question. Describe your unique experiences and viewpoints and how they will enable you fit in and contribute to a college community.

7.     Quotations

A prompt may be provided in the form of a quote. It can be a famous person or a quote related to the college’s mission or values.

You are expected to interact with such quotes and show your connection with the college you are applying to. Admission officers expect to know something new about you as you discuss the quote in your supplemental essay. Ensure you highlight relevant aspects about yourself.

8.     Supplemental essay short answer prompt

Essay questions that require short answers can be framed from different topics. Check the number of words required for these types of questions before you begin to answer them. In your response, provide details that will help reveal your personality while staying within the word count.

9.     Zany

These types of questions are the most difficult and uncommon compared to the other essay prompts. When responding to zany questions, you need to apply critical thinking and approach them individually. Make sure you write something new about yourself in your answer.

How do you write a good supplemental essay?


What is a supplemental essay?

A good supplemental essay uniquely tells your story. Highlight your unique story so that your readers can remember you.

You should not be redundant, exaggerate or lie when describing your qualities. Similar to a good personal statement, a supplemental essay requires you to put your best foot forward using a genuine tone of voice.

The admission officers are capable of telling which story is genuine and which one is not. Make sure you sound real.  Consider the following when writing supplements

1.     Narrate your story

Engage your readers emotionally with an interesting story instead of listing your achievements. A story will help readers understand the transformation that has happened in your life. Avoid repeating something you have shared in a different application document unless you share it from a different angle.

2.     Write a unique essay

You can write a simple essay but in a unique way. You do not have to look for something new.

Common occurrences can make the best essays if you add something unique to it. This shows that you can think outside the box.

3.     Write about yourself

A supplemental essay helps admission officers understand you better. The best way to provide information about yourself is to link the essay prompt to your personal story. Highlight positive aspects about you without overwhelming your readers.

4.     Do not tell but show

Express yourself using an interesting story that will reveal your personality. Provide details of a specific event in a way that shows who you are.

Create a mental picture in the minds of your readers. Describe what you saw, heard, did, and how you reacted to certain situations.

Do not list activities but use them to tell a story. Bring your reader into the moment when you had a particular experience and let them experience it with you. This will leave a lasting impression in the minds of admission officers that will make them want to meet the writer of the story.

5.     Pay attention to the beginning and the end of your essay

The beginning of your supplemental essay is critical to the success of your application. A successful college essay always hooks readers at the beginning of a story.

The first sentence can be a surprise, a rhetorical question, a statistic, or an interesting statement. The aim is to get the readers focused on your writing and interested in reading the entire story.

Your last sentence should bring a sense of closure to your readers. It should resolve an issue and give readers a sense of finality. Write a final sentence that leaves an impact in the minds of readers and makes them remember you long after reading your work.

6.     Proofread your supplemental essay

After doing all the hard work of coming up with ideas and writing a compelling essay, you need to read through it. This is a stage where you ensure your essay does not have grammatical errors or spelling mistakes.

Proofread your work two or three times and correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure mistakes. You can use grammar software to ensure your paper is well polished and ready for submission.

Ask a trusted friend to help you check your work. Your friends can help you confirm whether your essay makes sense. Ask them if they can understand what it says about you.

Let them give their honest opinion and consider their responses. Check your word count and ensure it is within the required limit.

Tips for writing supplemental essays

Writing an excellent essay requires you to research and look at various supplemental essay examples. Such examples and guides like the Boston university supplemental essay guide will give you insights into writing an effective essay.

You also need to know tips that will help make your essay unique and pitfalls you should avoid. The following are tips you should consider when writing your supplemental essay

1.     Start early

A last-minute rush can make you submit poor quality work. Start working on your supplemental essay as early as possible.

This will allow you to allocate enough time for research, consultation, writing, and proofreading your work. When you have enough time to write and correct your work, you will likely produce high-quality work that will impress admission officers.

2.     Conduct in-depth research

Research the college that you are applying to. Make sure you understand important information like programs and activities and how it applies to you.

Read and understand the vision and mission statement of the college. Familiarize yourself with recent activities that have happened in the college you are interested in.

Such information can help you respond to an essay prompt. When you correctly respond to questions in a specific way about a college you are applying to, it shows you have a genuine interest in that college.

3.     Read and understand essay prompts

Carefully read and understand all aspects of the essay prompts. Accurately respond to prompts while highlighting positive and relevant aspects of you. Conduct thorough research on the question you want to answer and provide detailed responses.

4.     Be concise

Supplemental essays have a specific length you need to adhere to. Make sure you stick to the word count.

In most cases, you will not be able to submit your work if you exceed the word limit. Write what is relevant and eliminate fluff from your work.

Be concise and remove words or paragraphs that do not drive your story forward. Remove words that occupy extra space like “I think,” “It seems,” or “I believe.”

5.     Avoid controversial issues

Steer clear of issues that can make your readers disagree with you. Your main aim is to put your best qualities forward and increase your chances of joining your dream college. Make sure your essay is not discriminatory.

6.     Do not copy and paste

Admission officers can tell if you submit work that is not yours. When your work does not sound genuine or is too general, it can work against you.

Make sure you write your supplemental essay so that you do not lose your chance of getting an admission. A general essay does not address unique areas of a specific college. Such essays are an indication of a lack of thorough research work.

7.     Avoid clichés

Write a unique story and reveal your personality to admission officers. Avoid clichés statements that make your writing sound common.

Other applicants may have used cliché statements in their writing. Give admission officers something different from what they are reading in other applications. Clichés will not set you apart from the crowd instead, you will fit in.

8.     Be specific

When writing supplements, avoid general statements instead, be specific. Write about specific activities that relate to the college you are applying to.

This shows that you have done your homework and researched the college. It proves that you are genuinely interested in the college, and the work you have submitted is your original work.

9.     Be creative

 Write a common event in an exciting manner. This is how you will stand out from the crowd.

Add a unique twist to a simple story and draw your readers’ attention. Do not be afraid to express your individuality.

You do not have to sound like everybody else. This approach will make admission officers remember your essay.

10. Think critically

You may find some quirky questions among your supplemental essay prompts. Such questions require you to think critically and give your best response. You can demonstrate your critical thinking skills that will work to your advantage.

11. Write optional essays

Sometimes you may find optional supplemental essay prompts when applying to a college. Respond to all the prompts, including the optional ones.

Do not leave them out. Applying to all prompts gives you a competitive edge.

It means you are putting extra effort into your application process. Admission officers will have more information to evaluate you, which will work to your advantage.

12. Sound natural

Supplemental essays are about you, and they should sound like you. When you sound genuine, you come across as an honest person.

Your tone of voice should be natural and not exaggerated. When you sound unnatural, you will come across as trying too hard to impress.

Key takeaway

Many colleges use supplemental essays to know more about your personality. This is a chance for you to pour your heart and soul into writing a compelling essay that will set you apart from the crowd.

Understanding the requirements of essay prompts and conducting thorough research is important in providing convincing responses. Narrate your story and reveal positive qualities while focusing on the prompt.

Avoid repeating information in other documents but make an impact in the minds of readers. Write a unique story that will make admission officers remember you. To get help on supplemental essays, place your order.

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